PA stalwarts' seats fall to UNP

[TamilNet, Thursday, 08 April 1999, 18:17 GMT]
The PA lost the electorates of its key leaders to the UNP at Tuesday's provincial polls. The ruling party was defeated by the UNP in the electorate of Senkadagala in the Kandy District, the 'seat' of Deputy Defence Minister General Anuruddha Ratwatte.

The UNP got 17760 votes in Ratwatte's electorate (48.26%) while the PA came behind with 15840 (43.04%).

However in the Kandy District itself, the PA won with 47.54% to the UNPís 44.97% though both parties obtained the same number of seats - 13.

The PA's propaganda machine has portrayed the deputy defence minister as a unique war hero.

The UNP's campaign in the area focussed on the plunging economy and corruption in the PA's administration.

Similarly Prof.G.L Pieris, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, hailed as the architect of the ruling party's peace package lost his electorate in Colombo east to the UNP which got 19492 (53.96%). The number of votes cast for the PA in Colombo east was 11979 (33.16%).

The ruling party was also beaten in the Dehiwala-Mt.Lavinia electorate, the base of party strongman C.V Gooneratna, Minister of Industrial Development.

The UNP got 15548 votes (47.19%) while the PA was able to secure only 13416 (40.72%) of the total valid votes polled in this electorate.

What is interesting to note, according to political observers in Colombo, is the decline of the votes accruing to the ruling party from what it was able to bag at the last all-island election -the general election of 1994.

At that point, the PA won 48.94% of the votes, while the UNP was able to secure only 44.04%. The PA was able to obtain this majority with the help of the Democratic United National Front (DUNF) which was a breakaway group of the UNP.

The DUNF was formed under the leadership of two persons who were stalwarts of the party they left. The DUNF was then regarded as the third force.

Today, the DUNF is riven by faction and its pitiable remnants are politically insignificant.

At the last provincial elections, in May 1993, which were held in all the provinces of the island except the Northeast, the PA won 36.09% of the vote and the UNP 46.90%.

At that time the UNP was in power at the centre. The PA was able to form the administration in only two of the seven provinces in 1993 and that too with the help of the DUNF.

Provincial elections in Sri Lanka serve two purposes.

They are usually mid-term evaluations of the Government in office at the Centre - both in Parliament and to an extent the Presidency.

They also serve as a conduit to propel erstwhile little known provincial, or local leaders into the arena of big time politics.

Provincial councils themselves are of not much importance - there is no significant devolution of power to make them significant.

Political analysts in Colombo are generally agreed that the most significant phenomenon in the provincial elections is the record high of 250,179 personal preferential votes polled by UNP's western province chief minister candidate Karu Jayasuriya. The first UNP runnerup got 40000.

Mr.Jayasuriya was the Mayor of Colombo and is expected to resign his position soon.

Reacting to the preferential vote results out today, several UNP strategists said that their chief Mr.Ranil Wickremesinghe should let Mr.Jayasuriya lead the party to victory at the general and presidential elections.

That the Tamils and Muslims in Colombo did not vote for government is clear from the fact that only one minority candidate of the PA, Mr.Nawzer Fowzie, the son of Minister of Transport A.H.M Fowzie has been elected in the city points a political analyst with a Sinhala tabloid.

He added that most of the votes polled by Nawzer Fowzie is due to his father's personal standing.

Three Muslims and a Tamil- Joseph Charles, a lawyer - were elected on the UNP ticket in the city.

A third Tamil candidate, Velammaal Sellasamy, lost by a narrow 121 votes.

However, both Velammaal and Charles got more personal preferential votes than the total votes polled by the National Union of Workers (NUW) in Colombo which presented itself as the champion of the Tamils in the city, calling itself the Inthiya Vamsaavali Makkal Perani.

This was mainly due to the perception among the Tamils in the capital that the NUW was a front set up by the PA to break the minority votes from the UNP.

The main impetus for the UNP's victory in the Colombo District seems to be the business and the professional class and the sizeable Tamil population, many of whom are those displaced from the North due to the fighting.

With no end to the war in sight and the sluggish economy, the business class does not mince its words about its feelings towards the PA.

This group also has an identifiable personality around whom to rally in Karu Jayasuriya, a successful entrepreneur.

The Tamils who are estimated to number between 100,000 and 150,000 in and around Colombo and who were behind the PA's victory in 1994, have turned against it.

Many of them seem to have voted with the UNP say polls observers.

Repeated harassment by the security forces in Colombo and the manner in which the PA has prosecuted the war in the Northeast have contributed to the Tamils' disillusionment with the PA they said.

Related Feature:

07.04.1999: TamilNet:

Polls predict uncertain future for government


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